Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Skunk Hunter

Seamus decided the other night that he was tired of the skunk who had made my patio his buffet. Cue malevolent theme music...

I fell asleep with just the screen closed, having attended to some overdue reading of Mother Jones. I woke at 1:18 to Seamus's fight growling.

I look out on the patio for the other cat and ran outside to get Seamus. He was foaming at the mouth and shaking his head, his eyes squinted almost shut.

I reached down to get him and froze. Hiding behind the tall plant was a black shape with a distinct racing stripe of white down the side. I saw it precisely as my adrenalin-enhanced sense of smell was finally tuned in.

A fat little skunk. Its black eyes locked with mine and it walked backwards a bit. Seamus went to dart at it and its tail went up just as I scruffed him and dragged him backward.

The skunk came out from the plant just a little, and its tail went down as I retreated, stinking cat in hand, through the screen.

I took Seamus into the bathroom and closed the door, gather up the bathroom rugs and all the other cloth in the area, and locked him in. I checked the screen and it locked when I tried to close it again. He had smashed through it.

I had no tomato juice, no supplies and no idea where to look at 1:20 AM. I scanned the grocery store websites. Ralph's and Food For Less are apparently 24 hours. Off to Gay Ralph's I went.

I grabbed some hydrogen peroxide, standard shampoo, and baking soda, then some tomato juice for good measure. I also bought some treats for bribes.

When I got home, he was screaming to get out. At times like these, I am possessed by an irrational thought... that cats can be reasoned with in a chastening way. It may not be productive, but it passes time and serves as interaction through doors.

"YOWWWW!" he cried.

"Well, you can't just go and beat up every animal you see," I said as I mixed the recipe preferred by mythbusters:
  1. 1/4 cup of baking soda
  2. 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide
  3. 1 tsp of grease-cutting dish washing fluid

"Well, doors that are closed and locked are to keep kitties in and critters out," I said, getting a pitcher to rinse him with and some extra supplies.

When I had a bowl of the secret recipe mixed, I gathered up some disposable linens and went in. The bathroom was safe, as Seamus was simply hovering by the door, awaiting his escape. He engaged me in more heated howling conversation.


"Well, it's only for a little while. You need a bath!"


"I know you don't like them, but you can't spread skunk spray all over the house," I said, filling the tub a few inches.


"Yes, as soon as you don't smell like marching death in a stinky shit band, you can go lay down," I said.

"Mmmmrrrrr," he said, plopping on his belly, panting from the stress.

I gave him a treat and he perked up a bit. The washing began.

I used body-temperature water for the whole process. It helps and keeps a cat calm. Slightly warmer is fine, but even a little cooler will bring howls of disdain and escape attempts.

For stage one, I washed him with pure Dawn. I was careful around his eyes and massaged it deeply into the huge spray-spot on his sternum to break up the greasy base containing the thiols from the skunk.

I rinsed him off, then drained the water and cleared the tub of his massive hair clog, then refilled. The smell was lessening. Seamus walked into a corner and peed, which I mopped up with a throwaway towel. He purred as he was given a treat and then stood by the door.

"YEE-OWWWWW!" he demanded.

"Not yet, you still smell like three-day-old roadkill tartar with a side of shit stew," I said, snickering a bit in my sleepiness.

"YOOOWWWW!" he said, pawing at the door.

I scruffed him and back into the water he went. I finished working out the spot on his chest and soaked him to the bone, looking for scratches or bites all over his body, as skunks are known to carry rabies. No bites. Good news!

The mix went on as a soapy soak, and Seamus disliked the cooler mix of fluids immediately. But he did not lick, and I let him soak for the 10-15 minutes asked. In the meantime, I went into the kicthen and boiled ammonia and set out cheap bowls of coffee grinds.


"I will be back in after you soak, just calm down."

(Tap-tap-scritch) "YOWWWW!"

"Leave the door alone, that's how you got into this mess!"

"Mrrr.... Mrrrrowwwww... Mmmff"

"Good boy, I will be back soon," I said, opening the door a crack and tossing in a treat.

Once the vinegar was boiling and grinds were out, back in I went. Seamus put up with the indignity of yet another rinsing, his coat now a bleached, lighter shade.

I ran more water after cleaning the drain and soaked him in tomato juice then left to check on the other measures, adding candles and incense to my smell battle. I stopped and tossed a treat to him in the back corner. He ate it and laid back down, sighing big.

After soaking him for 15 minutes in tomato juice, I washed him off completely and patted him until he could take it no longer. The smell was almost completely defeated.

I went to sleep at 4 AM. Seamus hid in the closet with his mother's old clothes, but it smelled clean he next day. I worked a long day exhausted, but he seemed fine. Joy.

I need a new screen door.